Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers dump big contract on Coyotes, but cost isn’t cheap

Lawson Crouse during first official practice for the Florida Panthers on Sept. 18, 2015.
Lawson Crouse during first official practice for the Florida Panthers on Sept. 18, 2015. Miami Herald staff photo

The Florida Panthers made a substantial trade Thursday morning, saving a lot of money on the salary cap but losing a top prospect in the process.

Yes, the Panthers found a taker for Dave Bolland’s big contract in the Arizona Coyotes.

The cost: former top pick Lawson Crouse.

The Panthers were on the hook for the final three years — and $16.5 million of total cap room — of Bolland’s deal.

Bolland would have cost the Panthers $5.5 million per season and being able to dump that contract on Arizona frees up more salary cap space for Florida.

Bolland, who is hurt, was ineligible to be bought out (that would have saved the Panthers around $6 million) because he was on the injured list at the end of the season and failed his postseason physical. Bolland signed a five-year deal with Florida in 2014 and played in 53 games his first year, scoring six goals with 17 assists.

Bolland was limited to 25 games last season as he never played once he was demoted to the minors in December.

Bolland was said to be working on lower body issues stemming from a serious injury suffered while with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013.

Crouse was Florida’s top pick — 11th overall — at the 2015 NHL draft held at BB&T Center in Sunrise.

Although Crouse was expected to battle for a roster spot with the Panthers at training camp next month, it was possible Florida would have returned Crouse to his junior team in Canada for another year.

Because of his age and the rules governing junior hockey in Canada, Crouse can either play in the NHL or his junior team next season; he is not eligible to play in the minor leagues until his junior team’s season is complete.

Crouse scored 23 goals with 39 assists for his Kingston, Ontario, Frontenacs last season.

Aside from getting out from under Bolland’s salary and cap hit, the Panthers received a second and third-round draft pick from the Coyotes.